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Pregnancy and infant loss: The emotional impact of miscarriage

Posted on 10-14-2015 Posted in Depression, Health and Wellness, Mental Health, Trauma - 0 Comments

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Miscarriage is a private tragedy that can leave parents emotionally devastated. The joy and anticipation of bringing a new life into the world is replaced by shock and often accompanied by depression.

Miscarriage, also known as perinatal loss is categorized as follows:

  • Ectopic pregnancy – implantation of a fetus outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube
  • Miscarriage – loss of a fetus below 20 weeks of gestation
  • Stillbirth – loss of a fetus above 20 weeks of gestation
  • Neonatal death – loss occurring from birth through 28 days of life

Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, California, is the author of “Reproductive Trauma: Psychotherapy with Infertility and Pregnancy Loss Clients.” Jaffe says that the trauma of perinatal loss includes the pregnancy itself and all of the future imaginings attached to it that require a grieving process.

Following a perinatal loss, a woman could be at risk for subsequent depression. Emma Robertson Blackmore, Ph.D., psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, published a paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry after she studied 13,000 women for a three-year period following birth. Of 2,823 of those women who experienced a miscarriage, 15 percent of the surveyed group had clinically-significant depression during and following pregnancy for a period lasting up to three years.

Miscarriage also affects the relationship between the mother and a subsequent healthy child. Researchers studied mothers who had a healthy child within 19 months of a prior miscarriage and, when that child was one year old, the mother-child attachment was assessed and it was found that 45 percent of the children experienced disorganized attachment to mothers. Blackmore says that the implications are that a miscarriage may have psychological consequences on future children.

A common misconception is that when a baby is lost in the early stages of pregnancy, the grief will be less severe. However, research has proven that whether the pregnancy is at the 11-week or 20-week stage, a woman’s reaction is similar in its intensity. Some women wrongly blame themselves, according to Martha Diamond, Ph.D., believing that if they had done certain things differently the miscarriage would not have occurred.

Approximately 1 million American women experience perinatal loss each year, of that number, 50 to 80 percent will have a subsequent pregnancy. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan suffered a miscarriage prior to their currently healthy pregnancy. Zuckerberg spoke on the tragic event in a Facebook announcement, “You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child … You start making plans and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you, as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.”

Sovereign Health Florida can help those coping with severe grief and depression using a combination of therapeutic modalities, including medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. We also incorporate group therapy for our clients and provide encouragement and support throughout treatment. If you would like further information, please call to speak with a member of our team.

Pregnancy and infant loss: The emotional ramifications of a stillborn child

Written by Veronica McNamara Sovereign Health Group writer

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